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When Benjamin died, he was kind of the center of gravity that held the orbiting lunatic planets in alignment. Once he was gone, we all sort of spun off into space.
Glen Thrasher (host of WREK-FM (91.1)'s "Destroy All Music" show and, for a time, Benjamin's roommate): I knew Benjamin for more than 20 years. He spent the first half of that time absolutely pushing the edge. He had these ideas that he could do anything he wanted to do with art and if people were offended by it, that was their problem, not his. He spent the other half just trying to make his music. At the time, I thought it was really tame and paled in comparison to what he had been doing in his previous group. But in hindsight, I can see that it was some of the best stuff he ever did and it's that music he'll be remembered for.
Coleman Lewis: I have so many memories. You spend that much time with somebody, you're living with him and playing in a band with him. I just keep them to myself. It's nice to have that memory no one else has. Everybody has their own memories of him. Some like to tell people about them. I just like to hold on to some for myself.
Connie Haynes: Every time he had to go to the emergency room, we thought we were going to lose him. One night when he went, I said, "If you'd been straight, I would've given you a hard time because I would've wanted to be your wife." And he looked me and said, "What's straight got to do with it?" Not very often, but sometimes, I just know he's here. I'll dream about him and I feel him when I wake up.
Doug DeLoach: As a writer, it was incredible to have been around all that. Everybody talks about the sadness and pain they saw in Benjamin and in the music. I can tell you it brought great joy to him to do it, and to Bill and to Coleman and to Brian and to Tim, anyone who played with those guys. It was joyous.
When you listen to that music, you feel that profound sadness. You can't escape it. But in performance, it was nothing short of enthralling. You had a much greater connection to the beauty of that expression. And that's a very difficult thing to pull off.
James Kelly: Any music scene is transient. They don't last forever. We all change. Life changes. People move on. They leave and their priorities change.
A bunch of folks are still in Cabbagetown; I still live there. People come in, do their thing, leave and new ones come in and do their thing. Some have stayed. Others have gone on to do bigger and better things. Kelly Hogan lives in Wisconsin and is touring with Jakob Dylan right now; she's also Neko Case's right-hand woman. Hell, I think Kelly is a better singer than Neko. And that's just not because I've known her for 25 years, I just think she's a better singer.
It's funny, somebody mentioned the other day that a lot of younger people in the music scene in Atlanta have no idea about the roots of a lot of the music. They go see Hubcap City and think it's all cool and great; they have no idea who the Opal Foxx Quartet was or Benjamin.
Bill Taft: How would I explain Benjamin to someone who never saw him? He was a lot like Huckleberry Finn. He was kind of a timeless outsider. He refused to be civilized. He just headed out and wherever he was, that's where the frontier was.
Additional reporting by Chad Radford.
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